Mojo Preachers are Frank on Man Made Monsters

There is a lot of mojo out there at the moment…in band names, songs and album titles where the use of the word is profligate. But what does it actually mean? Well, I thought it was the intangible soul; that magic within us that responds to the mood of music and envelops us in its spell…it turns out that it means, courtesy of that venerable tome, The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, “magic, voodoo; a charm or amulet’ or, “US slang for any narcotic drug; especially morphine”. I suppose I was close with the first and have zero experience of the second. By the OED’s definitions, I will assume we are dealing with a band that preaches the virtues of magical charm. Mojo Preachers are based in the East of England and now unleash their second album, Man Made Monster. It is a follow up to their Confessions debut but shows a shift in styles, partly due to line up changes but also a conscious move to a blending of styles that encompass blues, rock, jazz and a pleasing chunk of good old prog rock mixed in.

Opening with the title track, we are immediately immersed in a laid back Cozy Powell style drum intro and guitar/key chords with a great bass line that conjure the wonderful portmanteau album that was Music From Free Creek…and that is a very good thing. This track is a lovely swing in a blues, jazz come prog way with Sophie’s vocals suiting the mood perfectly and the guitar solo is majestic in its sparseness and tremolo work. Tattooed Heart keeps the swing with a captivating melody backed by clever guitar, organ and electric piano. The bridge leads to another solo of craft and skill that explores harmonics and bends up and down the fretboard and makes a strong song even better. Cave And A King is a tantalising title that opens with simple keys and cymbal and then picks up a subtle riff as it develops into a story that asks questions we should all address; all of this is backed by a simplistic and yet involved backing that enthrals…the guitar solo is another understated but oh so effective piece of playing and the short keys solo is apt and atmospheric too with its marimba like sounds. Black And Grey follows and moves us into moody jazz tinted blues with a key led backing and the drums providing some clever hi-hat/snare interplay. A touch toward the Sade feel but with instrumentation that still keeps the attention.

With Heartbroken Sailor up next and the piano intro is classy and classical and the band join in with suitably laid back backing that gives Sophie’s vocals room to convey a complex storyline immaculately although what it means with lines like ”at the bottom of the lake the eels are getting dressed” I am not sure. The drums and piano bring a suitable watery feel and the synth doesn’t intrude too much and the guitar excels again for most of the last, blissful, sixty-eight seconds. Well Worn Friend starts with a neat bluesy guitar and piano piece before it lays back and becomes a complex soulful work that draws you in. It has a structure that Kate Bush employed at times to convey so much in so few notes and the vocals may not be Kate-like but they are simply lovely. Can’t Get Clean has a funky hint with the beat and the electric piano but still keeps the soul there especially when the vocal joins in. The guitar provides a subtle and skilful interlude in the middle when I think Andy is using the machine heads to bend the notes. The synth solo is short, adept and doesn’t make me think too much of the 70s. Life of Bird set my dogs off with the synth tweeting before the guitar brings a very Free riff into play. It is the bluest track and, unsurprisingly, my favourite as each of them bring a touch of class to a great song. I would have preferred a long guitar solo to the synth that sounds like Ken Hensley on steroids! Magic and Gold has another piano-led, classical intro before closed hi-hat and strummed guitar make this sound like an outtake from The Gemini Suite. The vocal harmonies are beautiful; as are the guitar solos…another example of a few notes making a huge impact especially the second one.

Move opens on some superb guitar as Andy picks and chords a slow blues feel and then moves to folk-ish strumming when the piano and vocals join in. This song also has, to my knowledge, the only comparison of a heart to an old diesel engine waiting to start…but why not? Call Me Crazy has that Ken Hensley solo feel again and is the most upbeat song so far as piano adds a bit of barrel to the mix. The guitar work is subtle brilliance and then provides a solo that uses harmonies to give it depth. Take Me Down is solid lounge jazz in feel but has a scope that prevents cliché. It also has another tasty guitar solo that, although way too short, has plenty of nuances to enjoy. Similarly, the piano solo outro is quality too. Easy (return) is a reworking of the song on the Confessions album and is suitably buoyed by the fresh approach…electric piano washes and guitar bends lead us into a slow blues/jazz number that is irresistible. Again, as I am not a huge synth fan, I’d sooner have had a guitar or organ solo but it is still a damn fine-tune.

This then is not a blues album; it is not jazz or any other easily pigeon-holed genre…rather it is a cerebral blend that captivates throughout even though it doesn’t make you want to jump up and ‘throw the horns’. This is a quality work that needs multiple listens to realise the skills on display from every member of this talented band. The bass, the drums, the guitar and the keys need to be isolated and listened to…then you will truly appreciate what a sonic landscape awaits the listener. No, it isn’t something I will call upon every day but, when the mood is right, it is an immersive experience that stays with you and, despite the earlier Sadie reference, it will not send you to sleep.

EIGHTpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Track listing:

  1. Man Made Monster
  2. Tattooed Heart
  3. Cave and a King
  4. Black and Grey
  5. Heartbroken Sailor
  6. Well Worn Friend
  7. Can’t Get Clean
  8. Life of Bird
  9. Magic and Gold
  10. Move
  11. Call Me Crazy
  12. Take Me Down
  13. Easy (return)

All songs written by the Mojo Preachers

Musicians:

Sophie Lindsay: vocals

Carleton Van Selman: keyboards

Andy Walker: guitar

Trev Turley: bass

Matt Furness : drums

Recorded at Rooks Yard Studio

Engineered and produced by Tim Aves & Pete Crisp

Artwork:Sophie Lindsay

Recorded at Rooks Yard Studio & Engineered and produced by Tim Aves & Pete Crisp

Artwork: Sophie Lindsay

Mojo Preachers are Frank on Man Made Monsters

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.